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Value of a College Degree vs Not Having One

For those unsure about whether to pursue a college degree, one benefit they should consider is the size of their paychecks.

A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” found that young adults with a college degree who work fulltime earn approximately $17,500 more per year than their peers who have only a high school diploma.

The payday difference between college-educated and high school-educated workers has increased with each generation since the 1960s, according to a February 2014 article in U.S. News & World Report. Between 1965 and 2013, the median annual pay for college graduates rose by $6,700, while pay for high school graduates fell $3,400, the article said.

In simpler terms, high school graduates today who forego college will earn about 62% of what their peers who have a college degree make per year.

More than Just Money

The distinction doesn’t stop at the difference in pay.

College graduates may spend less time finding a job and be less likely to be unemployed than individuals with just a high school diploma.

The Pew Center study showed unemployment for college graduates stood at 3.8% in 2013 compared to 12.2% for those with only a high school diploma.

Though effects of the Great Recession still resonate through the job market, especially for the Millennial generation, those born after 1980 who have a college degree spent an average of 27 weeks looking for a job in 2013, compared to 31 weeks for those without a college diploma, the Pew study said.

And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, jobs for college graduates are more likely to come with benefits such as health insurance, paid vacations or matching payments to retirement accounts.

Foundation for a Career

Many employers only look for potential hires who have a college degree, meaning some positions won’t be available to those with just a high school diploma. Many entry-level positions, the cornerstone to a successful career, require a college degree for an applicant to even be considered.

A college degree can position an individual to choose a career and chart a path to achieve success. Those without a college education may find themselves relegated to low-wage positions that don’t require a specific skill and often experience higher turnover.

Here’s a look at five careers expected to be in demand through 2022 that typically require a college degree:

  • Law Enforcement: Individuals interested in becoming a police officer may start with just a high school diploma, but advancing to command ranks can require a college degree. Federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI often require a college degree.
  • Accountant/Auditor: Most employers in this field require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Applicants with a two-year associate’s degree may qualify for a junior accounting position. Some firms require a master’s degree in accounting or business administration with a focus on accounting.
  • Health Services Manager: This management position typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. Some employers specify a master’s degree in health services, long-term care administration, public health or business administration.
  • Psychologist: Depending on the specialty, individuals interested in this career field need a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, plus specialty licensing and certification. Clinical counselors and research psychologists often require a doctorate degree.
  • Information Security Analyst: At a minimum, this position typically requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science, programming or a related field. As technology continues expanding, more schools are developing specific programs for information security.

In addition to tangible employment and pay benefits, college graduates benefit from interacting with other students. They can build contacts with instructors and classmates that pay dividends in the future as well as possibly establishing friendships and social bonds.

For Millennials who eschewed college upon graduation from high school, the prospect of a rewarding and long-lasting career that may pay well and provide necessary benefits for later in life means they might want to research online colleges and universities that provide specific curriculums and allow students to set their own hours while juggling full-time work and education.

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